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NEW (Apple Green) LOW PROFILE VINTAGE PREMIUM BASEBALL FASHION CAP HAT - Mens Womens Ladies Two Sansdwich Peak Beechfield Quality Ultimate Sports Adult Plain Blank polo Classic Cotton golf Tennis - By Fonfella
NEW (Apple Green) LOW PROFILE VINTAGE PREMIUM BASEBALL FASHION CAP HAT - Mens Womens Ladies Two Sansdwich Peak Beechfield Quality Ultimate Sports Adult Plain Blank polo Classic Cotton golf Tennis - By Fonfella
Offered by Tomscabin
Price: £3.75

1.0 out of 5 stars Get What You Pay For..., 30 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
...A cheap, shapeless cap that has been stabbed with a fork to give it a distressed look. Save the money you will be charged for post 'n packing and buy yourself a decent cap elsewhere.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 7, 2014 3:41 PM BST


Metro Last Light (PS3)
Metro Last Light (PS3)
Offered by FairTrade4U
Price: £13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good But Can Be Frustrating, 14 Jun 2013
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Metro Last Light is a solid FPS. Great graphics, meaty sound effects, plus a decent story that is wrapped in a post apocalyptic atmosphere portraying the brutality and hopelessness of a world swirling the drain hole rather than a blasted ruin chock full of radio stations playing 50's music and nuka cola swigging Super Mutants with a grudge.

At its best Metro dumps the player in a hostile environment; whether it is the nuclear wasteland of the ..er wasteland or an enemy bunker full of talkative meat bags and provides freedom to deal with mutant or man with all the tools at your disposal. Which means stealth, guns (which can be modded) or explosive doodads.

Stealth is simple but fun. Light sources can be extinguished and darkness is a cosy blanket from which you can hurl throwing knives for one shot kills or creep unawares and perform execution style takedowns. The enemy is pretty slow on the uptake when dead bodies litter the floor and all seem to suffer from nyctalopia, so as long you stay in the shadows you can usually kill with impunity.

Gunplay is frantic and deadly as it should be, cover can sometimes help and sometimes not and rushing around pumping your trigger finger will have you reloading checkpoints often.

Not so good is the games signposting. For what is a linear game the way forward can sometimes be lost in the grubby colour palette and flickering light of the game world, and a couple of times during boss battles too many moving / glowing parts made it confusing as too what i was expected to shoot at.

And lastly some of the level design contains the kind of gameplay gubbins that i just haven't the patience for. Mine cart type rides where you have too defend and duck are short but too often repeated, pressing the 'button' and having to fend of waves of enemies until the game allows you onward turn up like a jaunty tip of the hat to Half Life 2 and the game designers do enjoy sticking you in the thick of it at a couple of points; surrounded by hostiles with little useful cover and leaving you too handle things with many tactical avenues of play cut off.

Yep i did rage quit a few times but on the whole Metro Last Light is a great game. In an era where the single player FPS...or at least the decent single FPS's are harder to find, on the console at least, Metro LL shows there is still hope of challenging and fun gameplay that rises above so many of the other unambitious titles on the market.


Dishonored (PS3)
Dishonored (PS3)
Offered by Bargain Games UK
Price: £15.99

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish I Had Purchased Sooner, 26 Feb 2013
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dishonored (PS3) (Video Game)
When reading reviews for games i guess i must be a glass half empty guy because it is the criticisms that stay with me even if i have read lashings of praise for a game. With Dishonored there was an air of disappointment that stuck like fly paper on my brain along with many moans about the game length.

I picked up the game recently and if you are willing to immerse yourself into a world of secrets, lies and searching for combinations to safe boxes then so should you. Dishonored is one of the best games i have played in ages.

At the time of this review, both on amazon and even on the PSN store the game sells for under £20 which is frankly a steal for the gaming entertainment on offer.

Weak Graphics?

The art style of Dishonored very much reminds me of the Arkham Horror board games; individuals with wearisome and often times bulbous features that are not quite caricature's. The City of Dunwall which you discover from the sewer up and within which the games levels are set is a rotting, oppressive city that exists in a steampunk world at the grubby end of the 19th century and shares common DNA with Half-Life 2's City 17.

I have read complaints about the graphics of Dishonored which i really don't get. There are definitely some flat, low resolution textures but for the most part it looks like any other game using the Unreal engine and the wonderful art design does an excellent job of not just holding the game up but making it sing.

Game Length?

Yeah you could blow through this game i guess, head straight for the main objective waypoints and reach the end credits in the eight or so hours i have read others have done. My first playthrough took me well over 20 hours. I replayed sections of the game that will account for some of that time (by choice) but mostly i explored, enjoyed the game world that was on offer and completed every side quest i could - side quests that you could bypass entirely, which involve complete maps with their own story, challenges and intrigue, not just simple fetch quests.

I listened, i read, i found secrets and looked for clues, i learned about Dunwall and the Isles and best of all i enjoyed myself.

As a gamer with a large collection of shamefully unfinished games, Dishonored is completed but not wrapped up. I am already on my second playthrough and can't wait to snap up any dlc that is made, the first of which is dirt cheap and offers tremendous value.

Dishonored is creative and fun. Wide open levels that are sculpted for you to immerse yourself within should you wish it. Turn off the objective markers, turn off the over large health and mana bars and play...see what happens because the game is full of surprises.

One Last Thing.

I was on a killing spree in an early level, my cover blown by my own misuse of the environment. During a side-quest i had raided a doctors house and already dispatched three guards. A fourth along with a maid were chatting on the next floor and were not long for their world. As their exposition filled chat came to a close and i prepared to make my move the guard remarks to the maid "Is this what our marriage is going to be like?"

A young couple in love and engaged to be wed. I held my blade, got my stealth act together and with a soft, warm smile i choked them both into sweet unconsciousness.

That is just one of my Dishonored tales, but Arkane Studios gave me many more. And at half the price for most newly released games too.


Mugen Souls (PS3)
Mugen Souls (PS3)
Offered by Clearance Game Deals
Price: £19.79

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A SRPG that falls short, 14 Feb 2013
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Mugen Souls (PS3) (Video Game)
NIS America publish games that reside in the niche spectrum of the jrpg genre and Mugen Souls is no exception. The Ateiler and Disgaea series are for me some of the best NIS has to offer and Mugen is similar in some ways.

The story is typical bonkers barmy stuff, conveyed through still or barely animated portraits and perky voice acting. There is plenty of humour throughout ranging from slapstick silly, Benny Hill sauce and occasionally surprisingly subtle comment. The gameplay is focused on a turn based combat that is loaded with rules and conditions and takes a few hundred tutorials to explain. Much of your time is spent grinding levels and acclimatising yourself to the multi layered combat and battling random dungeons so you can level some more and grab some rare loot. So far so NIS America.

The game falls short with presentation along with one of the key game mechanics that is simply awful. Graphics are never a major factor for these games; you're either onboard for the grindy gameplay or not. There is no way to 'kind of' like these games. The graphics though are not just simplistic but squint inducing. Everything is blurred with a framerate that barely drags itself through sparsely detailed levels.

In combat, once more of the game elements come into play (one involves a snooker type strategy of bouncing enemies off each other, allies or crystals) it just becomes a smudged mess, a tussle with the camera in trying to find the best view, figure out what you're looking at through the haze of bright colours and then dragging a cursor over the screen to find out what different combat status effects are in play.

Added to this is the 'Moe Kill', a way of recruiting enemies that is flat out meaningless. Basically your main character changes to a form that a creature finds appealing - this is simple and obvious- and then from a given list you pick three keywords that will make them fall in love, give you an item or buff its health and stats making it harder to kill. What keywords will work is also dependent on its mood and makes no sense at all. Without using an online guide i could never have figured out that a 'Hyper' creature who was Joyful needed me to choose - 'Desperate, Crybaby or Glare' to get it to jump on board, whilst if i had chosen 'Smile' it would have freaked out.

Getting some good loot from a creature requires you to choose a form linked to its own whilst its opposite will make it frenzy. Again without a guide i would have been lost and even with one it is just not a fun gameplay device, yet it is a required constant throughout the game.

The jerky framerate, crowded and blurred combat screens make this a game i struggle to sit through. If you are looking for a deep and heavy strategy jrpg then Mugen Souls has the content and more than enough rules and elements to figure out but there are far better options out there. Disgaea 3 or 4, Agarest War, Cross Edge and the Ateiler games are a few.


Ni No Kuni - Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
Ni No Kuni - Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
Offered by Musicland Ltd
Price: £14.49

56 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How To Fix A Cynical Heart, 3 Feb 2013
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Humour me if you will. Type 'Dark Chronicle PS2' into the Amazon search engine and you will be taken to one of my favourite PS2 games. Scroll the page and your eyes to the highest rated review, made in 2004 i believe; its title...Dark Chronicle A WORK OF ART.

Yep, i agree. With every aged capslocked letter.

And so is Ni No Kuni. Another Level 5 game and another title deserving of a place in any gamers collection who has a love of that stubborn old beast, the JRPG. Ni No Kuni hits all the right notes and will whisk you to another world if you let it.

...Graphics...

The visuals are sumptuous. Dipped in detail, colour and imagination. Game developers Level 5 have risen to the challenge of creating a game world that fits so seamlessly with the artstyle of Studio Ghibli. The detail of...well everything, is stunning. Just take look at the screenshots.

The colour palette sings out, from the seasonal landscapes of the world map, to the red and blue of hero Oliver's cape and jerkin to the splashes of orange, blue and green of an early spell effect. Animation throughout is top notch (i love the way Oliver carefully navigates a stairway), and the creature design is humorous, sometimes freaky and always beguiling; stirring feelings deep in my soul of a hunter / gatherer need to *ahem* collect 'em all.

The attention to detail, craftmanship and quality are obvious from the moment you first enter the game and presented with the hero's hometown; 1950's middle America seen through a dream like lens, to the town of Ding Dong Dell, a place so well realised of a Studio Ghibli vision i half expected to bump into Haru and Muta as i stepped through a fish themed archway.

...Sound...

The soundtrack is composed by Joe Hisaishi. If you don't know what that means with regard to quality, and i don't want to be a bossy boots here, but go to YouTube and check out 'Ni No Kuni OST - To The Decisive Battle' for an indication of the games soundtrack. When it comes to beautiful compositions and stirring accompaniment Joe Hisaishi really is a safe pair of hands. Out in the field or in a dungeon Joe Hisaishi's music is a welcome, foot tapping, memorable companion.

Voice work ranges from mediocre to very good. I was a little disappointed with a few of the main cast, they are not bad just somewhat flat, but there is not a truly awful voice artist that has you clawing for the mute button. If you are familiar with the NDS Professor Layton series or Inazuma Eleven then you will certainly recognise a handful of voice artists that Level 5 seem to fall back on. There is an option for the Japanese audio for those that prefer.

...Story...

A sore point for some JRPG's. Well Ni No Kuni has a good one and more importantly a well paced and cohesive one that doesn't take tens of hours of gameplay to get to the telling of. The protagonist has a clear goal from the off, (he is going to save the world and rescue his mom), there are early mysteries that raise their head, (a cryptic, apologetic ghost girl) and what is something of a very pleasant surprise in a modern jrpg - a clear villain of the piece who returns onscreen regularly along with her cohorts.

There is a sweetness running throughout the game that involves travel between worlds and fixing the broken-hearted, but it is not ladled on treacle thick or as stomach churning as listening to the helium pitched babbling of Lymle (Star Ocean) with a side order of Vanille (FF13). 'Kay?? Oliver, whilst a pale shade of other Studio Ghibli heroes does as the game progresses display the steadfastness, honesty and courage so often displayed in their films and his fairy pal Drippy is down to earth, gruff, kind, impatient and wonderfully comic at times. (One serious cutscene between a father and daughter has Drippy, in the background, taking the opportunity to try on the girls dainty bonnet.)

...Gameplay...

Any jrpg worth its salt has many moving, sometimes bafflingly obtuse, working parts that come together to form a whole. Ni No Kuni provides layer upon layer of classic jrpg mechanics, with clear explanations of all the whirring cogs.

There is a world map to explore dotted with towns and dungeons in which to quest, grind and loot. A library of spells to build that is used to aid the locals, solve very mild puzzles, unlock scattered treasure chests or drop a fireball on a monsters head.

Combat starts simple enough, Oliver and his first familiar, a warrior type, form a tag team. Further into the game another two familiars can be added to his battle roster. Movement is in real time which means some attacks can be avoided by the more nimble paced familiars and gameplay pauses when you switch out combatants and locks you into an animation when an action is chosen, which can be cancelled at any time if a change of plan is required. A successful attack is based on a unit's stats not your trigger finger. Spells, special moves and even using consumables have a cool down period attached, with the familiars themselves drained of stamina the longer they fight. Counterattacks, interupts, elemental weakness and strength, limited but customisable familiar special attacks all come into play.

And then with the addition of more party members joining Ollie boy in his quest and in the field, each with their own party of three, battles can turn into a spell slinging, sword swishing King of the Ring. But is always fun.

The difficulty on normal provides a nice challenge and whilst nowhere near as punishing as fellow rpg Resonance of Fate, if attention drifts or consumables are allowed to run dry then trouble could be waiting. Boss fights are obviously a step up, with a more careful eye needed on when to defend and move.

Rounding out the main quest are job boards, bounties, alchemy, item farming and side quests. Familiar management and growth is as deep and as time consuming as you wish it. (They can be fed, which improves stats, charmed in battle, metamorphosize into bigger versions, earn abilities and kept in what looks like a manhole run by a...well i'll let you decide.)

There is even a compendium of fairytales, complete with drawings, out in the world waiting to be found and assembled.

...Bad Stuff...

Not much, but to be picky...

After a battle the game only gives a very brief chance to grab any health or mana pick ups which can be pain, especially if you just miss out on grabbing a 'glim' which provides a full restore.

Once or twice a voiced line of dialogue appeared not to play.

And the only point in the game thus far that my enjoyment evaporated into frustration was on one of the Temple of Trials missions that involved navigating a crumbling pathway with two characters at once, each controlled by a thumbstick. It was very much trial and error gameplay and my reactions and patience ain't what they were.

[EDIT] There are some difficulty spikes late in the game which is really down to the weak A.I of your party members. Using a familiar that is particularly weak to an enemy due to it being an elemental inferior when they have better options, not moving effectively resulting in a jam at the centre of the battle field and wasting mana (always a problem, but a real pain in the harder areas) can cause headaches. A more 'gamey' approach is required to off set these issues. Removing mana expensive abilities when not needed and avoid handing over the slower familiars to A.I control helped me.

...Is This Review Finally Over??...

Yep. Ni No Kuni is i think destined to be thought of as a classic jrpg. Level 5 have crafted a game that is as joyful and fun as some of their best work on the PS2.

It has stunning visuals, a beautiful soundtrack, great chunky combat and a game world loaded with humour, events and activities to provide depth and freedom around the main quest. The story is endearing, never cloying, even with Oliver and his 'jeepers!' and 'neato!' catchphrases.

Most of all, Ni No Kuni is a game with heart.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 17, 2014 11:53 AM BST


XCOM Enemy Unknown (PS3)
XCOM Enemy Unknown (PS3)
Offered by GAMES CONSOLES BARGAIN
Price: £9.59

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars XCOM - The Best In Console Strategy Since...X-COM, 13 Oct 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Hats off to Captain Larry, nickname 'GungHo'. She was amazing. A shotgun surgeon, the vanguard of my squad, charging bravely across war torn cityscapes burnt asunder by alien fire. Her bright pink armour and shock of electric blue hair a bastion of hope to all. Not for the Muton who stomped on her like a bloated, squishy bug obviously; the brutish alien wore her guts like a scarf and preceded to rip through two rookies as if they were made of tissue paper. And years after playing X-Com on my Playstation i am again shedding a nerdy tear for my digital soldiers. On a strategy game for a console no less.

For those who are unaware of the linage of XCOM or don't care it is a game of turn-based tactics at squad level wrapped up in a strategic layer that involves research, development, managing your soldiers and base, plus choosing which alien threat you can or will respond too. During missions you play on one the games many maps and guide your troops turn by turn in and out of cover, through buildings, along rooftops and deep into the control rooms of crashed UFO's; searching for aliens to kill or stun based on percentage shots worked out by a soldiers Aim skill, distance and cover. The aliens by contrast want you dead...in the case of the Chryssalid's something much worse. Mostly they want you dead though.

A tutorial holds you firmly by the hand for the first few hours and makes a thorough job of explaining game concepts.

The approach Firaxis seem to have taken with XCOM is that of a board game. There are certain mechanics in the game that may not work thematically but do a great job of creating tension by forcing the player to make choices that can have immediate and far reaching consequences.

The most obvious of which are the alien incursions and the panic level of nations. Outside of story-based missions there is never a singular choice when the aliens attack, you can choose to respond to only one nations plight (or none if you wish) and must abandon the others. Those nations you turn your back on have their panic level raised up a notch, and once it hits critical they will leave the XCOM initiative and go there own way, taking their monthly funding with them. Panic levels can be decreased by use of satellites which are expensive and take time to build as well as completing missions. Later in the game the whole concept works like a side game of plate-spinning, hard decisions have to be made and sometimes juicy rewards abandoned (each mission has its own sweetner) in an effort to keep hold of a high funding nation.

The idea of hard choices or at least meaningful ones is a constant throughout the game. When soldiers level up they are arbitrarily handed a 'class' which they are locked into for the remainder of their hectic lives. Have too many snipers and need a support class? Then you have to make the decision to field rookies on the next mission and leave the more experienced guys at home and hope they level up into a class you want. Equip a grenade or med pack? Without the corresponding perk you can only take one. The same with research and base building. Time is precious and high level research and base building eat it up as well as your credits.

On the ground the combat missions are fast paced and exciting. Each soldier can move and perform a combat action, or move twice in a 'dash'. Higher level characters have access to more abilities, which stack up to an impressive amount of tactical options, with some abilities aiding teammates when they in turn use their own special abilities. The aliens too have there own skill set which they use to great effect. Each encounter with a new species becomes a cautious affair of probing attack and retreats as you try and work out just how a new threat can hurt your team. I don't want to drop spoilers but some of the alien abilities can hit hard and fast, again reinforcing the idea of a 'board game' balance to XCOM that might infuriate those demanding greater ingame realism to their skirmishes. The first time panic rips through an entire squad because one member fell prey to an alien special ability can cause huffy sounds and eye rolls but then slim chance critical hits that save the day and your own well timed special abilities can equally turn a lost cause into a win.

The missions are mostly shooty shooty but VIP and civilian rescue, bomb disposal and other objective based missions are put into rotation along with live alien capture; think pokemon but with more goo and torture. Research via alien autopsies can only go so far and capturing live aliens (at your own discretion and peril) adds another factor to XCOM's battles, with the big bonus that you only retrieve alien weaponry from stunned aliens.

Graphic wise the game is decent and well put together but not without issue. The camera can be a pain, providing a close up view of the back of a soldiers head during the cinematic close ups of shots hit or missed and has trouble in tight environments. There can also be occasional frame rate jerkiness when a map gets busy with aliens, civvies, smoke and rubble. Soldiers appear to sometimes shoot through walls and floors at aliens, especially during overwatch when they react to enemy movement they obviously shouldn't be able to see and there will be other times when you and the game will disagree as to a soldiers line of sight.

The music is nice if a little subdued, i would prefer something more bombastic as my guys gear up for battle and eerie as we explore a map waiting for alien contact. And your multinational squad of soldiers are all voiced by similar sounding American voice artists. [EDIT] Actually the deployment theme has wormed its way into my head and is really pretty good.

Overall XCOM provides a minty breath of fresh air to the playstation roster and is a well thought out and engrossing strategy game in its own right. Multiple difficulty levels provide a hefty challenge if you wish it and the solid gameplay is loaded with so many tense moments, choices and is sprinkled with great touches. Your customised squad for example you will see in the rec room or gym of your base and there is a page of remembrance to your fallen soldiers, complete with forlorn bagpipe accompaniment that just begs for your own Shantner-like eulogy to your personal favourite, (best wait until your significant other is out the room for that though). And there is always that next alien weapon to research, item to build and country that is on the verge of tipping into all out panic. Much of the scope and bloat of the original is gone, if that is not an issue and you are looking for a different gaming taste than what is usually on offer, then XCOM is definitely worth a look. Check out the demo on PSN store.

(TIP: Play on Ironman, it makes the game 26.7% more fun.)
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 20, 2013 1:13 PM BST


Dragon's Dogma (PS3)
Dragon's Dogma (PS3)
Offered by APE-GAMES
Price: £10.49

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Fun Despite Some Stubborn Game Design, 30 Aug 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dragon's Dogma (PS3) (Video Game)
Dragon's Dogma is a crazy game.

I have never enjoyed a game as much that had so many elements that i didn't like or thought were flat out broken.

I'll assume you know the general synopsis of Dogma and get straight on with my issues. (With the game.)

IF YOU ENJOY...

...fast paced, well realized combat. Nicely animated creatures, solid graphics and some subtle and pleasant magical effects. Crafting characters and customization. Dungeon crawlers like Etrian Odyssey. Rating other peoples virtual companions and giving gifts. Clambering titanic creatures and poking them where it hurts. Quest choices that are irreversible.

Don't mind repetition. Are patient. Happily level up characters and equipment. Rub your hands in glee at the prospect of hunting out rare drops, poring over a massive, convoluted inventory screen and combining different items together to create stuff. Think a post game challenge is something to relish and a cherry atop any game.

Then you may enjoy Dragons Dogma. Check the demo out but be warned the beginning of it does not show the game in its best light.

IF YOU WILL NOT STAND FOR...

a camera that, especially during dragon fights, will provide you with a perfect view of a leafy tree or anything and everything as long as it is not your character. Single save games. Severely curtailed fast travel options during an initial play-through. A narrative that is baffling on the verge of nonsensical. A lack of characters, in game history, cultures and other fantasy tapestry stuff you may associate with an Elder Scrolls type game experience. Monsters that spawn in exactly the same locations. Optional quests that amount to kill 'X' number of beasties and escort this fragile AI character to the other end of the map. Constant AI chatter. The same phrases repeated and repeated and repeated. A mute protagonist and absence of dialog options.

If you are already aware that wolves hunt in packs and if you were to hear that fact stated... say...a few hundred times you think you may do something drastic and kinetic to your controller.

Then the shortcomings of Dogma may be too much to bear.

I really like Dragon's Dogma. During play it reminded me of those hack n slash LotR games for the ps2, Devil May Cry, Monster Hunter, the occasional Resident Evil level, Demon Souls, White Knight Chronicles, Shadow of Colossus and even a nod of the head toward Ico. Not once did i think i was playing an Elder Scrolls game or a similar western RPG.

The game is fun, but there are enough fractious design decisions that i can see putting off many gamers that may otherwise have enjoyed Dragon's Dogma.

Still i can't wait for the sequel.

(TIP: Turn off pawn chat text and the slo-mo pawn cam)


Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (PS3)
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (PS3)
Price: £16.84

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic ARPG, 11 Feb 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Amalur is an excellent and well paced hack`n slash rpg.

If you enjoy fast and colourful combat, picking up big, bristling, bulging bags of loot and eventually becoming so empowered you can swat the greatest monsters a fantasy realm has to offer as if they were a miniature version of Tinkerbell then you should certainly check the game out.

Combat is the backbone of Amalur and it is immediate, fluid and fun. A combination of any primary and secondary weapon, shield (or much cooler looking talisman), along with magic and special attacks give the battles a frantic, explosive look and more importantly gives the player a lot of option in how they want to grab their next bag of XP points. Attacks are strung together on how you time them and combine one with the other rather than having to learn a bunch of preset button sequences. A `Reckoning' bar fills up as you fight and can be activated once it is maxed out which slows time (for your enemies), greatly powers up the player character and allows up to double the XP for a battle following a final slo-mo kill. More than just the mechanics of how it hangs together though, combat is full of great little moments that reveal themselves the more you play.

Tied into the combat is character progression which allows for any custom design across three spheres advancement; might, finesse and sorcery. Fate cards are further unlocked during play which in turn can be used to supplement your playstyle. Outside of combat a single point each level can be spent on typical adventuring skills and it is here Amalur shows it's whole (Fate) card.

Most hack n' slash rpg's are happy to provide exactly that. Fight, earn loot and pick a skill tree and get back to the hacking. Amalur also has one eye on providing a solid rpg experience. There are mini games in the form of picklocking and dispelling treasure chests plus useful skills including detect traps, item forging, magic gem crafting and potion making. The crafting is fun and deep and like the combat it gives the player a lot options to play with and whilst picking locks is far too easy the dispelling mini game is a nice little challenge with the added sting of picking up a curse if you keep screwing up. And then there is the `Persuasion' skill and it is here Amalur stubs its big fantasy toe.

The world of Amalur is drenched in history and lore, wonderful snippets of which can be discovered by unlocking lore stones that are strewn across the land and provide poems, anecdotes, and famous tales, all nicely voice acted. That quality and character does not stretch to many of the npc's that populate the world. Too many of the quest givers you encounter are exactly that. A sign post to your next quest. They usually have many lines of dialogue but are more like dry encyclopedia's of game history than personalities. Combined with very stiff facial animations, all too similar character models, flat voice work and stale writing it does take the bounce out of Amalurs step. Having the option to `persuade' them during dialogue is unfulfilling and ultimately worthless because there is no personality to care about. There is also a lack of dialogue trees which can create a great atmosphere in feeling an interaction with a character could have gone one way or the other had you played it differently or had a `persuasion' skill to lean on. Instead there a list of options that lead nowhere but to another history lesson or piece of exposition. The quests themselves are a mixed bunch and too often they resort to nothing more than `kill the wabbit' for the quest completion XP bonus.

The other downside of Amalur is the rather unambitious art direction. The graphics are big, chunky and bold and do a fine job of bringing the world to life with the fantasy side of things definitely pushed forward. Motes of blue fairy dust filter through the air, oversized colourful plants grow just off the road side and where other games go for muddy realism Amalur adds a splash of peacock colour. It is a shame the races that populate the world don't look a little more fantastical or at least different to so many other games out there. Elf-like races and Fae have pointy ears, humans have well muscled bodies and big chins and gnomes are small and enjoy rich facial hair. A little more flair and distinction from Amalur's peers would have been nice. The monsters you fight do fare better however once you move away from those rpg stalwarts the giant spider and his cousin the giant rat.

Those criticisms of Amalur do come with one caveat. They tried.

The combat, crafting, character advancement and tons of loot you are rewarded is well designed and fun. The game world has a rich backdrop of history and event, looks great and is full of reward and activity. There are a lot of cool looking weapons and powers to wield and some great looking monsters to slay. If the populace sharing the world with you had more spark and substance, some of the side quests genuinely twisted, turned and held some surprises then Almalur would have had the lot. As a first effort from a new IP Amalur shows a lot of promise and is a blast to play.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 19, 2012 12:02 PM BST


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3)
Offered by SmarTechnics
Price: £12.25

118 of 144 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Tarnished Masterpiece, 18 Nov 2011
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
Bethesda create worlds. That world is Tamriel, a land of great beauty and breathtaking spectacle and Skyrim, it's northern province, is no exception.

The art design is fantastic, the soundtrack glorious, the quantity and quality of things to experience within it's cold, jagged enviroment are a testament to the ability of Bethesda to craft a living, breathing sandbox.

Character development has been trimmed and refined, stats are gone but the rpg element is not dumbed down. Progression feels far more natural with no need to game the system to pump up the stats you want, with each level providing an opportunity to increase health, magicka or stamina, along with a perk. Each choice has a tangible effect on how you play the game and beefing up a particular skills' perk tree is very satisfying. Combat, magical and melee, feel the best in the series yet, stealth and archery are also very well done.

Graphics are improved over Oblivion and Fallout 3, but not by that much, yet again it is the art design that is so much better. From the grimy, earthy look of the Nords to the sleek and deadly Dark Elf, the characters look more natural and less plastic wrapped and shiny than those of Oblivion. Voice acting too is better for the most part although there is one awful voice actor who seems a regular in these games who sounds like a teacher reading to a class of infants. Max Von Sydow and Christopher Plummer lend their talents to the game so the bad is certainly eclipsed by the good.

The quests come thick and fast and it is not long before you have a shopping list of tasks to complete and many will lead you to the underside of Skyrim, to the dungeons and crypts. I have enjoyed each and every barrow, temple, tower and treacherous cave i have assaulted. They are well designed and feel hand crafted. Each has a tale to tell and while there is no lengthy exposition explaining the back story it is perfectly illustrated in the details of the surroundings.

The game has the usual Bethesda glitches and bugs. Dragon corpses and other dead bodies you just wish would disappear sometimes seem to drop from the sky right before you, performing a shaky, shaky limb dance before they come to rest. I had one decapitated enemies head thrown at me whenever i re-entered a particular area, flung by his angry ghost perhaps. These, along with some other oddities, are little things and have become part of the Bethesda experience and is an easy price to pay for a game of such scope and depth.

So why two stars for such an amazing game?

Lag.

The PS3 version of Skyrim plays progessively worse the more time you spend in it. The PS3 owners i know who have also bought and played Skyrim suffer from the same problem (we don't have a decent PC j/k) the game reaches a point, after you have sunk many hours into it, where it starts lagging. And the lag gets worse and worse. It effectively kills possibly one of the best, most well crafted and involving games i have played in ages. Maybe ever. Travelling outside or heading into a town becomes unplayable, controller functions non-responsive. It is heartbreaking.

If the lag problem was fixed i would recommend Skyrim without question to those with the time and desire to explore and experience a fantastic world. You still can for the first 20-40 hours of play but just as you start to really dig into the game it starts flaking out on you. Some PS3 owners seem to not suffer the problem as soon as others and maybe there are some lucky owners who haven't suffered at all with the lag. But for me unfortunately Skyrim is a masterpiece of gaming that revealed itself to be broken.
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